Established in 1947, our Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay.  Each year, nearly 25,000 ninth through 12th grade students from across the country enter to win their share of more than $1.3 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program. 

The national first place winner receives a $35,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. A complete list of other national scholarships range from $1,000-$21,000, and the first place winner from each VFW Department (state) wins at least a scholarship of $1,000. Before submitting your essay, read the rules and eligibility requirements, and find your sponsoring local VFW Post as applications must be turned in by midnight, Oct. 31. Download and complete the 2023-2024 Voice of Democracy entry form here.


The 2023-24 theme is: "What Are the Greatest Attributes of Our Democracy?"


About the 2022-2023 winner ... Scotland Stewart, a sophomore at Franklin County High School in Winchester, Tennessee, was named the 2022-2023 Voice of Democracy first place winner. Scotland’s speech on the theme, "Why is the Veteran Important?" won him a $35,000 college scholarship. Scotland was sponsored by VFW Post 1893 in Estill Springs, Tennessee. Watch as Scotland delivered his speech during the VFW's Parade of Winners award ceremony (Scroll down and click the file on the center right).


Want to catch up on everything that happened this year? You can watch the full Parade of Winners ceremony (Scroll down and click the file on the center right bottom). See this year's complete list of winners including The Department of Pacific Areas winner Maribel Sikes, from Camp Zama, Japan who was awarded the $1,500 Department of Arkansas and Auxiliary Les Thone Memorial Scholarship.


Each year, nearly 68,800 students in sixth through eighth grades enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest for a chance to win their share of more than $1.4 million in state and national awards. Each first place state winner receives a minimum of $500 at the national level, and the national first place winner wins $5,000! 

The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief. Before submitting your essay, read the rules and eligibility requirements, and find your sponsoring local VFW Post as applications must be turned in by midnight, Oct. 31Download and complete the 2023-2024 entry form here

The 2023-24 theme is: "How Are You Inspired by America?"

About the 2022-2023 winner ... 
Leighton Peters, a seventh grade student from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, was named the 2022-2023 Patriot's Pen first place winner. Her essay on the theme, "My Pledge to Our Veterans" won her a $5,000 award. Leighton was sponsored by VFW Post 2204 and its Auxiliary in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

Watch as Leighton delivered her speech during the VFW's Parade of Winners award ceremony (Scroll down and click the file on the center right). Peter Smith, from Camp Humphreys, Korea, represented the VFW Department of Pacific Areas. Smith was awarded the $1,000 Department of Michigan Award and Warren A. Tressler Memorial (Department of Minnesota) Award (combined). 


Without our nation’s veterans, America wouldn't be the great nation it is today. Our youth deserve to learn about our rich history, traditions and the role of our veterans in creating and shaping America.


Each year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars selects elementary, middle, and high school teachers to participate in the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher program.


Please review the new rules and eligibility requirements and download the 2022 entry form to nominate a teacher you know. Teacher nomination entries must be received at a local participating VFW Post by the Oct. 31 deadline.


Looking to share updated information and materials on VFW's Voice of Democracy, Patriot's Pen and Teacher Award programs? Share our National Scholarship Brochure (coming soon) with the students and educators in your community.

Youth Scholarships Website 

Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen Chairman's Manual

Voice of Democracy Score Sheet

Voice of Democracy VFW Store

Department Voice of Democracy Instructions

Patriot’s Pen Score Sheet

Patriot’s Pen VFW Store

Department Patriot’s Pen Instructions

Teacher Award Manual

Teacher Award Score Sheet

Teacher Award VFW Store

Department Teacher Award Form

For Donations: If your Post or District does not have any entries, you can donate to qualify for All-State and All-American.